As writers we want to cultivate our imaginations. There are lots of ways to do this. Nearly every book on writing and creativity can tell you how. I usually don’t have a problem in this area. My imagination can run wild at the drop of a hat. Sometimes this isn’t a good thing.

Like when Peter was having surgery on his foot. What if he has some heart defect we don’t know about? What if he throws a blood clot? What if the anesthesiologist didn’t get a good night sleep and gives Peter the wrong dose? Notice all of these scenarios pretty much end in Peter’s death? Not a good thing. I seriously had to rein my brain in while I was in the waiting room.

On the other hand, some situations just lend themselves to good musings, especially for a suspense writer. Like what happened to me about six weeks ago. I was taking my daughter to a specialist (she’s been having some hearing problems) in the middle of the valley, nearly an hour away.

I get on the freeway and they’re doing construction, the concrete K-rails blocking the right shoulder. The person in front of me abruptly changes lanes. I see why.

Someone’s tire, rim and all, is sitting in my lane. I can’t get over either direction. I hit it. Immediately a grinding noise comes from the back and the steering gets squirrelly. Luckily, the car doesn’t slew too far out of control. The K-rails end so I can pull to the shoulder.

After telling my daughter to stay belted in, I get out to see the damage. I expect to see the backend of the minivan disintegrated. Nope, just the back tire, a gash through the sidewall and split wheel cover. No way it can be repaired.

I get back in and call AAA but it’ll be 90 minutes. Her appointment is in 30. She can’t miss it. I look in the back. There’s the spare and the jack. Okay, looks like I’m changing the tire.

Of course I’m wearing nice clothes.

I get the tire and jack out, looking pointedly at the cars passing me on the freeway. Hello, helpless female here. Is chivalry dead? Okay, I’m not really helpless; I can change a tire. But I don’t want to. I really don’t want to mess up my clothes.

I sigh and resign myself to changing the tire. And while I’m doing this, I’m thinking, “Hmm, I’m very vulnerable here.” And I start wondering how I could use this. The villain could do something to cause the heroine’s tire to go flat, either through sabotage or by putting something in the road.

I get a couple lug nuts off as I mull this over. Then I look at the tire iron. It would be a great weapon. It’s got this little hinge on the end. It’s mostly straight, but the socket that fits on the lug nuts connects to the bar with a hinge. This is so you can get the lug nuts at any angle, but can only turn the bar 180 degrees without having to pull it back in the other direction.

So I’m thinking, okay. A villain does something so my heroine has a flat tire in a very inopportune place. Maybe she’s in a bad cell area. Then, when she’s bent over, changing the tire, with no method of escape other than on foot, he comes after her.

Aha, but she’s got the tire iron. She can swing it and that little hinge piece will work like the end of a whip, cracking him across the temple. Even if he brings his arm up to block her blow, she’ll still break his wrist. Either way, it works.

I’m contemplating this as the last lug nut pops free. Then, someone drives up. I’m wary. But I’ve got my tire iron. It’s a minivan, though, the same make as mine. Not sure too many criminal masterminds drive minivans.

The guy gets out.

I say, “Hey, I needed you here five minutes ago. Before I got the lug nuts off.”

He doesn’t laugh. He doesn’t think I’m funny.

Well, bummer. Anyhow, he gets the spare tire on, one of those mini tires that you’re not supposed to drive very fast or very far on. He’s also got a better tire iron in his car, the kind you can spin. So he gets the lug nuts back on faster. Five minutes and he’s done.

I thank him and we leave. I wipe my hands on the ubiquitous fast food napkins in my car. Aside from some grit in my sandals, I didn’t get dirty. My daughter makes her appointment, only five minutes late. And I have a nugget that might actually make its way into a book.